Ants have been around for over 100 million years. They roamed the Earth alongside T-rex, survived mass extinctions, and have been termed the “super-organism” due to their diversity, ecological dominance and complex social structures. They are, shall we say, resilient. As much as we appreciate their important ecological role outside, we don’t always appreciate them inside. Read on for some natural ant repellent ideas to keep the super-organism from complete supremacy!
How do you know you have ants? All ants live in colonies, and you will either have an issue of an outdoor colony foraging in your home or a colony taking up residence in your house.
Either way, you are likely to see them. If it’s a serious situation, such as carpenter ants, you will also likely hear them and see evidence of sawdust.
Simple steps to prevention. Whether you are dealing with an outside colony or an inside colony, there are a number of actions you can take to prevent attracting ants into your home.
Don’t allow your kitchen to become an ant pantry. Be sure to wipe counter surfaces clean, brush up crumbs, and store dry goods such as sugar in a sealed container.
Repair possible entry points. Cracks in foundations, cracks and crevices in walls, under doors and around windows are all potential highway routes into your home. Seal them up as it will keep critters out and improve your energy efficiency at the same time.
Repair any leaking outdoor taps and other plumbing as they attract foraging ants.
Don’t store firewood on your deck or against the side of the house or garage as it’s carpenter ant candy.
Moist, soft or rotting wood in or around your home should be replaced if it’s structural or removed as it’s once again an invitation for carpenter ants.
Natural ant repellents:
If you are dealing with an outdoor colony that is foraging in your house, the best approach is to remove any trace of the chemical trails they leave to lead their colony companions to the food source. Here are some suggestions for doing just that (source):
Vinegar: Spray white vinegar or apple cider vinegar on areas where you have seen ants, particularly around entry points if you can find them. Alternatively (or additionally), you can use a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water to wipe down counter tops and floors etc. You will likely have to repeat over a couple of days, but eventually the ants will give up.
Pepper: Ants apparently have an aversion to black pepper, so again, use it where you see the ants, though it will be most effective used around the points of entry.
Cinnamon, Cloves and Garlic: Some strategically placed cinnamon sticks, cloves and/or sliced garlic can dissuade ants.
Mint and other herbs: Herbs that are high in volatile oils tend to be rather aromatic. Volatile oils contain natural pesticides that protect the plants from being grazed by herbivores. Some of our favourite kitchen and garden herbs are extremely high in volatile oils, including mint, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and basil. These herbs can be strewed around areas where you have seen ants, as well as points of entry into your home.
Cucumber and citrus peels: Again, these are known to repel ants and are best left near entry points.
Ant repellents that are not for the faint of heart (but still all natural)
I don’t recommend using any of these recipes if you’ve recently watched the movies The Ant Bully, Antz, or A Bug’s Life with your family.
Boiling water: Pour boiling water down into outside anthills.
Borax: Mix together equal parts Borax and either syrup, jelly or sugar (something sweet). The ants will carry it back to their nest to eat and it will kill them by damaging their digestive system and exoskeleton. If the ants aren’t taking the bait, you might need to reduce the proportion of Borax slightly.
Diatomaceous Earth: This is made up of the hard little calcium carbonate skeletons of fossil marine diatoms and it’s mined for a number of purposes. Essentially you want to spread the white powder in areas where the ants have to walk through it, either in and around the nest, or on established routes. When the ant comes in contact with the powder, it penetrates the exoskeleton (like millions of tiny shards of glass) and dehydrates the animal, ultimately killing it. Diatomaceous Earth is all natural and isn’t harmful to people or pets unless it is inhaled in large quantities. However, diatomaceous earth works indiscriminately, so it will have the same effect on any invertebrates.
Ants play an important ecological role in life. They disperse seeds, turn and aerate soil, help in the decomposition process and provide food to a great number of other animals. That being said, there are times when they can become a nuisance and perhaps even cause serious structural damage. In these instances, there are a number of options for natural ant repellents. The key will be perseverance and if one method doesn’t work, try another.